Thursday, January 29, 2015

To Rent or Buy?

You often hear about fewer first time home buyers in the market and so forth. Some cite student loans as an issue affecting whether people buy homes. The true answer might be more simple: homes are overpriced. Student loans don't affect people's ability to eat out, buy new clothes, and consume entertainment because those things are now relatively cheap.
Worse People

This happens because the "social media generation" are a lot worse people than their ancestors.

Reality will hit them in the face soon enough. And I think there are enough people still taught values around, they just aren't as noisy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Zuckerberg censors photos of Muhammad on Facebook.

Which is his prerogative, of course. But what I can't stand is these corporatist pussies who pretend to be brave and then fold at the first hint of a challenge.
Something To Think About

The world population today is over 7 billion. I can remember when it was 4 billion. In 1990, India had 889 million people, in 2008, it has 1.14 billion.

So in 20 years, it was sort of like India grew an Indonesia (the 4th biggest country on the planet).

Guess that explains why Obama just visited.
Demographics Is Destiny

Japanese people are not interested in sex and this is bad for the global economy.

I can see this as a problem for advanced, industrial, secular states with technology fetishes. Then again, Japan seems like a pretty singular and unique culture.
Goddamn Computers
ESPN Recruiting Analyst Gerry Hamilton Accidentally Tweets Porn Link Instead of Player's Highlight Reel.

Occupy the syllabus.
The course syllabus employed a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men. The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color. We have major concerns about social theory courses in which white men are the only authors assigned. 
These courses pretend that a minuscule fraction of humanity — economically privileged white males from five imperial countries (England, France, Germany, Italy and the United States) — are the only people to produce valid knowledge about the world. This is absurd. The white male syllabus excludes all knowledge produced outside this standardized canon, silencing the perspectives of the other 99 percent of humanity.
The strange thing about folks who take such positions: no one is stopping them from studying different cultures and thinkers. Shit, they can read any book they want. But why would they insist on changing the course material for this particular class? Because they're instincts are totalitarian. No wonder they empathize with Islamic Fundamentalists.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


TV: Man Seeking Woman and Empire

The two best new shows on TV. Is HBO's reign over? Over than Game of Thrones, HBO doesn't have anything surpassing what can be found on other networks.

TV: Justified season 6 premiere

Yikes. I don't know this, but it felt like the show changed showrunners or something, because it seemed so different than what I've come to expect. Unless the show turns it around quick, I won't be watching.

Film: Goodbye to Language

This feels like the first new Godard film anyone has talked about in awhile. Some critics lauded it as the best film of the year. The Aero was packed. And the film was insufferable. The parts the audience enjoyed the best were shots of his dog rolling around in snow, an image which could be found by anyone shooting a home video. I'm shocked anyone can call this a great film or an important film. It seems so disconnected from life as lived by human beings, or any type of joy in the cinematic experience, I don't know what to say. I kinda wonder what Bazin would think.

All right, you say, but surely it’s useful for powerful people to exchange ideas and learn from each other’s mistakes. Well, yes; but this lot rarely seem to learn. Whatever the problem, their preferred solution is always to establish a global bureaucracy staffed by people like themselves. Obviously, they don’t put it like that. “The stability of the global economy” is a much prettier phrase than “a juicy public sector post for me”. 
 It’s like an Ayn Rand novel, where lobbyists reach cosy arrangements with each other in elliptical language. Remember the way she described members of a company board? “Men whose careers depended on keeping their faces bland, their remarks inconclusive and their clothes immaculate”. That’s Davos. 
If only these men really were as clever as they thought. Or, to be more precise, if only their cleverness translated into making good decisions. In fact, Davos Man consistently gets the big calls wrong. In the 1970s, he was for prices and incomes policies. In the 1980s, he was for the ERM. In the 1990s, he was for the euro. In the 2000s, he was for the bank bailouts.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


I feel like the only one who finds this absurd and kind of humorous. I think most sports "issues" ought to be framed as "it's just a game." It really isn't about integrity and legacy and all this stuff. It's a game we watch. And the football inflation level doesn't strike me as vital or important. I don't even understand why there is a rule. I've played soccer, bball, and football casually and competitively throughout my life and it sort of just seems like common sense the level at which the balls are inflated. I'm not fan of the Patriots, but that the world is beating up Tom Brady over THIS, is absurd to me.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

ESPN Deflategate

The best comedy of the year, watching Tom Brady trying to explain deflategate. He's lying his ass off and not doing it well. Belichick was much better, not taking the reporters bait and dismissing and mocking "air inflation of the football."

It made me like Belichick more and Brady less. Brady should just own it and say, yeah, I like a little deflated football. So what?
Cheap Oil

Most people think Saudi Arabia is depressing oil prices to drive North American frackers out of business. Who will blink first?

I'd bet on the frackers long term. Any economy utterly dependent on one product isn't particularly resilient, although as the Saudi's have proven, can be an irritant.
529 Tax Plan

Obama plans to tax 529 tax plans which were tax-free growth vehicles to pay for college. This basically renders them useless, if I understand correctly.

At the risk of sounding like some sort of militia person, it isn't clear to me why the Federal government has any involvement with colleges. Why is the Fed in the business of student financial aid in the first place? I can see the Feds giving out grants for awesome students of low need or to encourage study in important industries, but as far as I can tell, the loans have led to bloated tuition and a lot terrible debt, without any corresponding improvement to the education of Americans. In fact, I suspect college degrees of yesteryear were more rigorous than today just by my casual observation of students.

Also, this makes me think the Roth IRA is not safe.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Are We Not Fighting ISIS?

They aim to control Mecca.

They are so obviously a threat to the world, I fail to see how the UN, US, or NATO is not out there with troops on the ground shooting at these guys. Don't we have a Congress? Don't they have a right to declare war?

I didn't listen to the State of the Union, but it seems Obama plans to change some tax rules that'll hit blue staters (ie Bay Area, NYC, LA) pretty hard. Here it is:
Estates get what's known as a "stepped-up basis" on assets -- meaning that when you inherit a house from Mom and Dad and later sell it, you're taxed on the difference between the value at the time you inherited it (your basis) and the value at the time you sell it. Obama proposes to use the price your parents paid as the basis, though the first $200,000 is exempted, and there's an additional $500,000 exemption for homes.
Being from the Bay Area, all these folks who I grew up with (the vast majority who probably voted for Obama), this will result in taxes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Houses that were bought for 100G in the 1970s are now worth 2 million. This is the difference between paying zero and $300,000 in taxes on inheritance.

A costly vote.

Discovered Dave Ramsey via Brian Koppelman podcast. Koppelman puts it nicely towards the end with their interview when he says (paraphrase), "I'm a New York Jewish liberal, and you seem like the last person I'd enjoy listening to, but I find your message so positive and uplifting and you're just one of my favorite guys."

So I took a gander. I'd heard of him through Megan McArdle, who totally goes by his system. His big, huge, mega point is to get people out of debt. He does personal finance seminars, advises no debt except a 15-year mortgage, and comes at it as "God's and Grandma's ideas about money." He has an interesting personal story about making six figures and owning 3 million dollars in a mini-real estate empire by age 26, but when his bank got sold, he ended up getting all his notes called, and was soon bankrupt and terrified.

I really like the podcast. Basically, he just takes calls from people with finance questions. And they run the gamut. The advice isn't particularly insightful. It is everything a smart person should know already - save more than you spend, don't go into debt, etc. The one big idea he advocates that I presently not do is give to charity. And it's got me thinking about it. What I enjoy about the show is the honesty and positive message and the humor. He speaks candidly about the subject of money with people - a subject everyone has an opinion and issues with, but something that is not discussed in "regular" conversation. It gets at many core values and illuminates larger points about what is important in life. I quite enjoy it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Horrible Super Bowl...

...for a Niners fan. If the Pats win, Brady matches Montana for SB Wins. I'm gonna have to listen to bullshit arguments how Brady is the best QB of all time, rather than a guy who lucked into the coach of his generation and got a lucky-ass break with the Tuck rule. If the PEDHawks win, oye. We're going to have deal with those insufferable fans for a long, long time and smug, overrated Russell Wilson being considered a great QB. I think the Seahawks, however, won't succeed much after this year as the team grows older and Wilson needs to get paid. Without Lynch, they have zero elite offensive players and will struggle.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Film: Blackhat

I don't like this title. Nevertheless, viewers will enjoy one of the best gunfight scenes in recent memory down through storm sewers in Macau.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Sullivan on Charlie Hebdo. Quotes:
The brutal truth is: Charlie Hebdo employees would last a week at most at the NYT before being fired. A liberal church like that will not tolerate blasphemy either. And can you imagine Charlie being allowed to be published on any US campus? For merely its depictions of Jews and Christians, it would never survive. It is, after all, a “macro-aggression”, right? Students would need counseling for years to recover from such images.

Then the deeper disappointment. Even now, many will not concede that religion was the root cause of the attack, and that the name of that religion is Islam. Reading the cartoonishly liberal Nick Kristof was like watching a Monty Python Piranha Brothers sketch (see above). Yeah, they have murdered thousands of Westerners and far larger numbers of Middle Eastern and Nigerian and Pakistani Muslims. Yeah, they did that. They also declared at every one of their slaughters that their motivation is Islam. They have beheaded people, mass murdered school children, flown planes into buildings, cut women’s genitals, employ sex slaves, commit mass rape, and on and on. They have taken over a large part of the Iraqi and Syrian deserts to advance their desire for religious purity. 
But Islam has nothing to do with this. There are just a few loonies who are suffering from false consciousness, and their real motivations are economic or personal or secular or just purely violent. You can believe that, if you want. Or you can pretend to believe it because it might be more pragmatic to do so. Or you can open your eyes. This is not to say that most Muslims support this kind of mass murder – and the global Muslim response was particularly encouraging. But it is to say that it is not a coincidence that so much terror and violence all over the world is currently being committed in the name of Islam. Some core parts of it are, quite simply, incompatible with post-Enlightenment thought and practice. And those parts have all the energy right now.

TV: Black Mirror, s.2, e.1, Empire Pilot

Black Mirror, good again. Made me wonder if Spike Jonze was inspired by this to make Her. Or vice-versa. I actually thought the Black Mirror episode was stronger than his movie.

Empire was surprisingly good.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Film: Whiplash


For the budget and scale, the filmmaking is pretty good, but at the core of this movie is a big fat lie and the kind of lies we don't need. Charlie Parker didn't become Bird because a guy threw a symbol at his head anymore than LeBron became LeBron because some abusive coach beat and throttled him. LeBron became LeBron because he's a physical freak of nature and there happened to be this game of basketball which he enjoyed playing and happened to be really gifted at it. This whole idea of torturing oneself into genius is foolish. Messi doesn't work harder at soccer than other professionals. Yet, he's a genius and they are not. If JK Simmons entire world POV was correct, we'd see totalitarian regimes excelling in everything from classical music to soccer to art to finance to architecture. Yet, we don't.

Perhaps the reason Starbucks jazz sucks is because guys like JK Simmons took the joy out of making it.
"Moderate Muslims"

Largest Muslim body in the world calls for limiting free speech after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
The OIC, whose member states range from moderate U.S. allies such as Jordan to adversaries such as Iran, describes itself as the world’s largest international body after the United Nations. For more than a decade, “the collective voice of the Muslim world” has spread the belief that any insult directed against the Muslim faith or its prophet demands absolute suppression. Quashing “defamation of Islam” is enshrined as a chief objective in the organization’s charter.
Worse than Fascist apologists, they are Fascists enablers because they encourage the fundamentalists to do their dirty work.
Mark Rippetoe

"Physical strength is the most important thing in life. This is true whether we want it to be or not...
...Our physical existence is, in the final analysis, the only one that actually matters. A weak man is not as happy as that same man would be if he were strong. This reality is offensive to some people who would like the intellectual or spiritual to take precedence. It is instructive to see what happens to these very people as their squat strength goes up."

I decided to start weightlifting at the YMCA. Call it a New Years resolution, if you want, but really, it is about prolonging my ability to play soccer. I am old relative to most players in my league. I feel the wear and tear of running more than I used to and I don't enjoy running on concrete. I think strength training might help. I got the book "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe. It is like a text book on weight lifting basics. I quite enjoy it. And it is the first time I feel comfortable knowing what I am doing and trying achieve by lifting weights. So far, so good. My squat has gone up 15 pounds in a week.

TV: Brooklyn 99

Apply the Parks & Rec and The Office machine to a police station. It works okay. There are some laughs and Terry Crews is funny. But there is something stinky in the lack of originality.

Multicultural Suicide

Victor Davis Hanson is the best writer on the subject.
In the end what is multiculturalism? A global neurosis. For its elite architects, it is a psychological tic, whose loud professions square the circle of enjoying guilt-free the material comfort that only the West can provide. For the rest, multiculturalism is a sort of fraud, a mechanism to blame something that one secretly desires in lieu of addressing the causes of personal or collective self-induced misery.

Lots of football...

Pats-Ravens game was terrific. Flacco makes a big mistake at a bad time. I didn't see the NE tricky formation as it was happening, but that's what makes football cooler than other sports, is the strategic element.

Dez Bryant catch was obviously a bad thing for the NFL product. I love how the instincts to micro-manage and over-lawyer a game (via replay and crazy rules) is backfiring. The response, of course, will be more rules. How about the old system where the refs just make a call and rely on common sense? The control freaks alway fall back upon: what if a game gets decided by a bad call? Well, didn't both the Cowboys playoff games both just get decided by a bad call? Morons. They go around solving things that aren't problems.

National championship game...I caught on replay and already knew the outcome, which is a lousy way to watch. But Oregon made some awful drops in the 1st quarter and fumbled twice. They looked jittery. Didn't watch the whole thing.

Peyton Manning looked done. It came out later he had a pulled quad for the 2nd half of the season. Why didn't he sit out a few games? Let his back up get some reps and get well. Seems awful stupid to me.

Aaron Rodgers. On the flipside, there is Rodgers playing through injury. At least with him, you can argue he is gritting it out through important games. Manning played in 6 games that didn't matter all that much. Stupid.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Left

The chorus of lefties coming forward in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and saying "but, but, but..." is illuminating. "They provoked them. What about the West's violence against Muslims?" This sort of thing. We've read the script already. Did the Jewish grocer also provoke Islam? Were the Pakistani school children massacred in Peshawar also provoking Islam? I don't think so.

These folks are Fascist apologists. Plain and simple. Islam has a Fascist wing that believes anyone anywhere who "blasphemes" the prophet can be killed legitimately. The peaceful Muslims, who we are all told are the key to defeating the fascists, are doing an incredibly lousy job at it. For going on 30 years. They lost in Lebanon, they lost in Iran, and they lost in Afghanistan. Now, they are losing in Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan-again, and Yemen. Probably in other places as well. 

I don't think the Fascists should be under-estimated. They are devoted. They are bloodthirsty. They are resourceful and clever. But their IDEAS and REASONS do not deserve our respect. Their ideas have no legitimacy. Let me repeat that: NO LEGITIMACY. They deserve mocking. They deserve to be laughed at. If you believe killing a cartoon publisher for blasphemy is legitimate, you are wrong and evil. Period. You cannot hide behind religion. We are under no obligation to understand the lunatic theological underpinnings of Fascist murder. This is absurd, self-flagellation. One need go no further than to an insane asylum and speak to a madman. You could spend your whole life debating with him, it would teach you nothing and you would convince him of nothing except that which you already know: he is insane. There can be no compromise or lack of clarity on this point. There can be no "but, he may have a point," "but we may have provoked him," "but, our policies are to blame." These are ignorant points, reflective of knee-jerk Lefty intellectual laziness and a complete and utter lack of historical knowledge of modern Islam or political history. It is, taking the lunatic at his word.

From the article:
But fears of such a backlash need not be an alibi for paralysis, and the longer it takes for the West to find ways to combat the Islamist cancer in its cities, the harder it will be for the vast majority of law-abiding Muslims who live in the West to distance themselves from the poison of a rabid few. Writing in the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, the British anthropologist Theodore Dalrymple observes that "there is more to fear in one terrorist than there is to celebrate in 99 well-integrated immigrants." The fear he refers to isn't merely the fear that the host communities have of home-grown terrorists, but the fear, also, that Muslim immigrants ought to have of them. For the terrorists have it in their power to destroy the societies in which they live, and with it the dreams of those tens of thousands of Muslim men and women who fled to the West from their own benighted lands in search of a better life.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Good Lord

Are the A's going to be good again next year.

Billy Beane is the master of the off-season and the goat of the post-season.

TV: Homeland, s.4, ep. 1-2

Ugh. Serialized TV. So slow. Tedious. Shots we've seen a million times before. Just get to the mystery and story. characters really get any more interesting over 40 plus hours? Still, I'll probably stick with. Our cultural landscape is so weird. All the prestige shows and pictures feature such weird anti-heroes these days...this makes little to no sense, but just thinking about the Cary character versus Axel Foley. Different genres, different times, I get it. But think about the popularity of Homeland and how we're watching this show about a woman who contemplates drowning her own baby. I mean, what the hell, right? Walter White? A murderer. Tony Soprano. Murderer. Lena Dunham? Horrible person. Hannibal for chrissake. Dexter. I'd argue the majority of prestige drama features murders and sociopaths these days. Does that say something strange about our society?

TV: Black Mirror, ep. 3, season 1


Film: Beverly Hills Cop

Still great after all these years. "Axhel, Achmad, Achtag..." "Axel."
Not A Good Sign

"Every Jew I know has left or is preparing to leave Paris..."

They are welcome to come live in LA.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Political Ideas

If I were political, my agenda would involve the following --

1. Eliminate any legal notion of "hate" crimes and "hate" speech.

2. Scrap the entire income tax system and reimagine from scratch. The likely outcome would be more consumption taxes and a minimal, uncomplicated, income tax.

3. Design some type of national-service project whereby everyone is compelled to serve the country for one year in the form of the Army, the Peace Corp, the Foreign Service, etc.

4. Lower the drinking age to 18.

5. Implement small steps towards de-bundling health insurance from employers. Ultimately, it will become more like car insurance and 401k plans.

More as I think of them...
Old Problem

I remember debating in film school with folks about the Danish cartoons and they took the side of "why should they purposely offend?" Foolish and dangerous.

Hitchens on the cartoons.

Book: Dirty White Boys

A joy to read. If this seems like faint praise, it is not.

TV: Black Mirror, Ep. 2

It's been a long time since I saw a show or movie I'd call brilliant. This was brilliant, down to the smallest details, the modesty of the production, the scale of the ideas. Superb. Makes me depressed to think about how much the US spends in TV development each year to churn out shit. Rupert Everett - amazing doing a Simon Cowell riff.
A Thought

Academics make reading tedious and then wonder why no one does it.

Armond White reflects on his ouster.
Freedom of Expression

If you told me when I was in college freedom of expression would be under assault in my lifetime, I would've laughed in your face. Islamic Fundamentalists were clowns then (still are). Today, they raided a French satirical newspaper and murdered 12 people. Add it to the list of assaults. The Interview was high profile, but remember Theo Van Gogh was murdered in the streets like a dog for making a short film depicting Muslims poorly.

Often, Westerners are fond of saying "there is no military solution to this problem." I agree and disagree. I don't think our big planes and bombs can win this war. I think we need an older tactic, one the Founders of our country foresaw, the old Right to Bear Arms. A well-armed populace would make mass murders think a lot harder before mounting these kind of attacks. Obviously the French do not have the same traditions as Americans, but they are certainly free to borrow our ideas.

The only appropriate reaction to Islamic Fundamentalism is mockery and self-defense. And to this day, it was not our military who delivered the best victory and counter-attack against their madness, it was the passengers of United 93.

We must recognize the fundamentalists are fighting a style of war we are not comfortable with, in reaction to our overwhelming military might. We'd be smart to acknowledge it, and more importantly, learn to fight it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015


Harvard faculty hates the new health plan changes from Obamacare, which of course, was dreamed up by Harvard faculty.

Meaning and Other Things

Pretty good stuff.
The philosophy of meaningfulness emerges in a culture in which there is no common moral vocabulary or framework. It emerges amid radical pluralism, when people don’t want to judge each other. Meaningfulness emerges when the fundamental question is, do we feel good?  
Real moral systems are based on a balance of intellectual rigor and aroused moral sentiments. Meaningfulness is pure and self-regarding feeling, the NutraSweet of the inner life.

Monday, January 05, 2015


Film: Brigadoon

I didn't make it all the way through the screening at the New Bev. I enjoyed one chase sequence, which reminded me of how Spielberg shoots chase sequences. Didn't like the music or dancing.

Film: Unbroken

I fell asleep. Biopic is the worst genre in my opinion. Actors get to indulge. Writers are lazy and formulaic. Directors get to take themselves way too seriously for narratives that are inevitably pat.

Friday, January 02, 2015


Film: Chef

Straight down the middle. I literally have nothing to say about it other than Jon Favreau looked quite fat. My only question: does Dustin Hoffman get asked to be in movies anymore?

Film: The Interview

Didn't go to a theater. Rather, my father in law ordered over the internet. It was a bad movie. It started terrible, but became only bad by the end.
False Positives

A Dish take on racism and cops.

I'd bet there are a lot more instances of misperceiving racism than actual racism in how the public and police interact.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Jay

Hat tip, Ben. An excellent interview with Jay telling his side of the story regarding the events making up the podcast Serial. A few key parts:

In “Serial” you are depicted as a petty weed dealer. Is that why you didn’t initially cooperate with the police? It doesn’t seem like enough of a reason to not talk to the police.  
 It wasn’t just like I was selling a nickel bag here and there. At the time, this was Maryland in the ’90s, the drug laws were extremely serious. I saw the ATF and DEA take down guys in my neighborhood for selling much less than I was at the time. And they were getting sentenced to three and five years. I also ran the operation out of my grandmother’s house and that also put my family at risk. I had a lot more on the line than just a few bags of weed.  
The other thing to understand is something about the culture of Baltimore—this is where the ‘Stop Snitching’ video comes from. This is where it was produced. It went national, but it was produced in Baltimore. This is where people would have their house firebombed and still tell the police they knew nothing about it rather than to try to make some sense of what’s going on. And that’s not necessarily me—but that is my family, that is my uncles and cousins. It’s where I’m from.
Is this when you first saw Hae’s body in the trunk of her car?  
No. I saw her body later, in front of of my grandmother’s house where I was living. I didn’t tell the cops it was in front of my house because I didn’t want to involve my grandmother. I believe I told them it was in front of ‘Cathy’s [not her real name] house, but it was in front of my grandmother’s house. I know it didn’t happen anywhere other than my grandmother’s house. I remember the highway traffic to my right, and I remember standing there on the curb. I remember Adnan standing next to me.
There is a lot more. Read the whole thing. After reading this, I'm more convinced Jay's side of the story is basically the truth. I also found myself re-thinking Koenig's reporting and finding myself frustrated by it. She was unable to get any of the people closest to the case to talk to her: Jay, Adnan's father, Hae's family, the detectives, the judges, the jurors, the grand jury people. She was never able to depict the scenario laid out by the state (or Jay here) AND never able to articulate an alternative scenario that made any sense. Basically, she reported around the case, getting access only to heresy and peripheral characters, and ultimately, made a mountain out of a molehill. She made the story about herself, her obsessions, her biases, and did not seek out the truth about what happened. In the end, she fell back on saying nothing but vagaries, which was not only right back where she started, but also willfully ignorant of the POV of the people closest to the story.

I suppose defenders of Koenig would argue she tried to get access to the detectives and to Jay, but if you read Jay's account about how Koenig approached him and the danger it put him in, her approach was doomed not to work. Basically, the people closest to the case didn't trust her and with good reason. Her project was based upon the idea Jay is lying, the police were shabby, and the judges and jury were manipulated. But I'd go the other way. I think she is a fool and was seduced by a liar (Adnan) and resorted to fictionalized, serial storytelling to make a non-story more interesting and compelling.
Happy New Year